US State Dept clears another possible $250M+ sale of light attack aircraft for Kenya; Human Development Index shows Kenya at 146 of 188 countries with “region’s worst jobs crisis”

Update: see Daily Nation: “Analysts skeptical of impact in Somalia of Kenya arms purchases“.

From the Defense Security Cooperation Agency release:

. . . .
This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader, undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab, and a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The proposed sale of the MD 530F helicopters, weapons, ammunition, support items and technical support will advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission. The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defense and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.

Kenya will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be MD Helicopters, Mesa, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
. . . .

The $418M L3 Air Tractor sale approved by the State Department in January remains pending for U.S. Congressional approval after objections raised by Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina.

Kenya had the largest military spending in the East African region in 2016 at $908M as reported by SIPRI.  Finalization of these two sales of attack aircraft this year would account for dollars equivalent to roughly 60% of last year’s spending.

Here is the headline story from Business Daily: UN report shows Kenya’s jobs crisis worst in region“.  The full UN Human Development Index report and related material can be downloaded here.

It may be worth noting that the United States spends quite a lot of money through many institutions scattered across our country and in many others on the study of and writing reports about the factors driving security threats from the types of things we are concerned about in East Africa.  I am not an expert on this and do not have time to read most of this as an interested amateur, but generally speaking I think the research tends to highlight concerns related to the Human Development Index factors and in particular the jobs crisis over any problems with lack of military hardware.  Perhaps I misunderstand.

Is it still easy to buy Kenyan identity documents?

In October 2013 The Standard ran an investigative expose on the readily available purchase of Kenyan identity documents including birth certificate, national identity card, school certificates, drivers license or certificate of good conduct from the Kenyan Police.  

This was shortly after the Westgate attack and many years after the disclosure of the Anglo Leasing national security procurement fraud schemes which the Kibaki and Kenyatta administrations elected to pay for rather than prosecute.  Since then we have seen growing corruption in multiple sectors, even with the sugar and charcoal smuggling issues involving the Kenya Defense Forces as reported by UN monitors and the new Journalists for Justice report.  Police reform under the 2010 constitution has been sidetracked by politicians who prefer other appoaches to those established in the law.  

Are false Kenyan identity and other documents still readily available for purchase?

Now to that next step: evaluating the Kenya Defense Forces role in Somalia and Kenya’s security needs

Andrew J. Franklin’s “Terrorism and the rising cost of Kenya’s war in Somalia,” in The Standard gives a perspective on cost and “mission creep” since the original Operation Linda Nichi incursion of October 2011.  Take time to read his assessment that over the course of what is best understood as a war rather than participation in a “peacekeeping mission” Kenya has come to face an insurgency in the border counties that now poses an existential threat to the county such that the priority for Kenyan security needs to be a focus by the KDF on a comprehensive border security initiative and finally implementing the critical domestic security reforms set out in the law since 2010.

Do not forget my post of last July highlighting the reporting of Amb. George Ward at the Institute for Defense Analyses: “Kenya Defense Forces essentially collaborating with Al Shabaab in illegal charcoal exports.”  And from October 2013: “Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors.”

Kenyan political leaders had unsuccessfully sought U.S. support for an operation to secure a “Jubaland” buffer region long before the October 2011 action.  There were probably a variety of motives to proceed when Linda Nichi went forward, some of which related to security and some of which related to various opportunities and schemes of a more “commercial” nature.

Without a coalition government in place as there was in 2011, President Kenyatta has the power and the accountable responsibility as Commander in Chief to articulate the mission of the KDF and the strategy to be employed, now.  Kenyans are clearly less safe than they were three-and-a-half years ago, so continuing to pursue a muddled mission without an obvious strategy seems quite dangerous.

Kenyans going for water

Kenyans going for water

Thirty eight years after the U.S. started Kenya police training in 1977, yet another failure in Garissa University massacre

The trained elite forces of Kenya’s Recce Company Crisis Response Team of the Kenya Police Service’s paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) do not lack for personal courage and technical competence, as they showed once again in dispatching the four terrorists who spent the day Thursday murdering Christian students at  Garissa University College after killing the two guards and seizing control of the campus.

Sadly, as we also saw in the Westgate tragedy, the top ranks of leadership in Kenya’s security apparatus lack the will and/or the focus that would be required to use such forces effectively to protect Kenya’s citizenry from even such small bands of terrorists.

The infuriatingly obtuse mediocrity of Kenya’s political elite was perhaps most conspicuously on display in Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed’s characterization of the police response to the university siege as “adequate” in her interview yesterday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, going so far as to conclude “we did all that we could do.”  While it is true that the Kenya Defense Forces did not intervene with “friendly fire” as at Westgate, the terrorists were left in control of the school for hours on end while the Recce Squad remained in Nairobi before finally departing by plane in the early afternoon, followed by two hours of briefings on the ground in Garissa before the successful assault.  Reporting in the Sunday Nation indicates that the Recce Company members, trained in the U.S. and Israel, are regularly being diverted to ordinary policing tasks in diverse locations and not maintained as intended on standby for the emergency Crisis Response Team at their Nairobi headquarters.

Surviving students reported being aware of their insecure environment long before the attack, which was preceded by specific warnings of attacks on university campuses, as well as the British and Australian warnings of threats which so angered President Kenyatta in the preceding days.  Most individual politicians in Nairobi have more security than this inviting cluster of “upcountry” Christian young people sitting in Garissa which has long experienced small scale church attacks and other terror incidents, as well as mass “security” repression on a periodic basis.

In an interview with the Daily Nation about the background of the middle class Kenyan among the terrorists, the assistant principal of the high school attended by the now notorious killer noted that student had finished at the school “way back in 2007 when radicalization was unheard of.”  “Terrorist was a gifted, obedient student

Even “way back in 2007” when I went to Garissa to train prospective parliamentary candidates the area was insecure enough that police escort was required from a checkpoint on the highway east of Mwingi in Eastern Province on into Garissa, crossing the Tana River into North Eastern Province.  It is hard for me to understand the idea that some grand foresight would be required to see the need for more security for this particular campus.  On its website, the University reports that it “benefits greatly from Garissa’s urban setting.  It feels closely tied to and responsible towards the city and county.  For its part it contributes to the cultural life of the city and region, and in all its activities pays regard to community and urban needs.”  The University came into being as the first full university in the old North Eastern Province in 2011 as an upgrade to an older Garissa Teacher Training College.  A noble initiative toward the crucial long term endeavor to begin the work of bringing this historically neglected region more fully into the Kenyan nation–one that made it an obvious target for Islamist extremists opposed to this endeavor.  And now shuttered indefinitely in the wake of the horrific mass executions.

Jeffrey Gettleman’s story in the New York Times “Shabaab Militants Learning to Kill on a Shoestring” identifies the extremist ideological counter-narrative. In claiming credit for the attack on one of the largest concentrations of non-Muslims in the area a Shabaab spokesman called the University part of a scheme by the Kenyan government to spread “their Christianity and infidelity” in a Muslim area that the Shabaab consider a “colony” under Christian control.

Nonetheless, Radio France International in a story headlined “Not enough Kenyan police in Garissa because its considered a ‘punishment zone'” quoted analyst Adam Hussein Adam saying “This is something that has been there since independence, and we continue to see that place [Garissa] as an outlier, and therefore we don’t deploy enough state authorities there until we have a problem like we now have.”

To me, the idea expressed in various quarters that pulling the Kenya Defense Forces out of AMISOM in Somalia now would resolve the underlying contested nature of the broader northeast within Kenya seems naive.  I don’t think the original 2011 incursion into Somalia was well considered or the best priority for Kenyan security at the time, and the AMISOM role for the KDF ought to be evaluated on its own merits now and going forward.  Nonetheless, I do not believe that there is a de facto bargain to be struck by withdrawing the KDF that would assuage those fighting what Nairobi-based security consultant Andrew Franklin has described for many months now as an insurgency within Kenya’s border counties.

Attention also needs to be paid to the experience and motives of the 27 year old Nairobi law graduate and banker, the son of a local chief from Mandera County who came to the capital for high school, followed by university.  Reportedly he wanted to join IS but settled for Al-Shabaab because he did not have a passport to travel to the Middle East but could transit the porous border into Somalia.

Kenya Defense Forces essentially collaborating with Al Shabaab in illegal charcoal exports

The Institute for Defense AnalysesAfrica Watch publication (PDF below) has a discussion by Amb. George Ward of the recent report for the UNEP and Interpol on the banned charcoal trade from Somalia (“The Somali Charcoal Industry–Strange Bedfellows”). Rather than shut down the trade that has been the primary revenue source for Al Shabaab, the Kenyan Defense Forces have continued the trade out of Kismayo, which they captured nearly two years ago, along with their present day allies in the Ras Kamboni militia. Further, the KDF is apparently participating in the same overall network of deforestation, charcoal production and brokered export trade that includes continued unmolested shipping by Al Shabaab itself from Baraawe. The traders include businessmen established in Nairobi and Garissa, so Kenya profits on that end too.

Fortunately for the Kenyan taxpayers, the EU and the United States primarily fund the AMISOM mission which has covered the Kenyan forces since mid-2012. Something tells me the charcoal proceeds generated through the KDF are not going to the Kenyan treasury.

africawatch-july-10-2014-vol5.pdf

Of course, other reports of KDF dealing in the charcoal trade have been out there for a long time.  See my post “Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors”.

Kenyan Opinion Highlights–five columns of note (updated)

These are four  five recent columns from the Kenyan papers on different aspects of the current malaise in public affairs.  Each makes a general point which I think is of undoubtedly valid, but adds some perspective, analogy or point of fact that struck me as unique and particularly worthy of your attention if you missed it at the time:

“Media bang! NGOs pow! Who’s next?” from Muthoni Wanyeki in The East African.

“We expected better from ‘Defence Force'” from Wycliffe Muga in The Star.

“The Jubilee government’s ‘infantry thinking’ is leading it to intolerance” from Matuma Mathiu in the Daily Nation.

“Religious leaders are letting Kenyans down” from Fr. Gabriel Dolan in the Daily Nation.

“Protect media freedom for development” from Apollo Mboya in the Standard.

Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors

In the wake of the incomprehensible looting at Westgate, Ben Rawlence, Open Society fellow and former Human Rights Watch researcher has published a candid look at the context in “Kenya’s Somali Contradiction” at Project Syndicate:

. . . if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure . . . In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative, a plan to protect Kenya’s security and economic interests by carving out a semi-autonomous client state . . .

. . . the United Nations monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that Kenya’s Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab.  .  .  . [T]he Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals.  Indeed in Kismayu, Kenya’s officials have reverted to their default occupation — the pursuit of private profit. . . .

Read the full piece.

if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure. But there is much more to the story. In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

Going back to my time in Kenya during the 2007 presidential campaign, it is well to remember that the multimillion dollar Anglo Leasing scandal that was subject to John Githongo’s whistleblowing involved corrupt contracts that were to have provided for the purchase of passport security technology, a forensic lab, security vehicles and a Navy vessel, among more than a dozen national security procurements.

Ultimately the exposure of the scandal proved to be a huge missed opportunity for the U.S. and the international community as a whole to address a pervasively corrupt security apparatus that we have continued to help underwrite.  While everyone was grateful for Githongo’s courage, we didn’t match it with courage of our own to take risks for reform and we ended up letting the Kenyan people rather than the Kibaki administration bear the burden.  See my post “Part Five–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 election and new FOIA cables”.

Unfortunately corruption does not fix itself.

Uganda Debt Network

Leaders

Furthermore, contrary to claims that securing Kismayo put al-Shabaab at a disadvantage, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that the Kenyan Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab. The group’s profits from illicit charcoal (and possibly ivory) exported from Kismayo have grown since Kenya took control.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThis highlights a fundamental problem: the Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals. Indeed, in Kismayo, Kenyan officials have reverted to their default occupation – the pursuit of private profit. Instead of working to achieve the diplomatic objective of defeating al-Shabaab, Kenya’s military, politicians, and well-connected businessmen have been lining their own pockets.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure. But there is much more to the story. In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative,
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

Kenyan Military to deploy to Samburu

The Kenyan government announced this evening that the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) would be deployed domestically to participate in responding to the massacre of, at latest count, 42 Kenyan police officers in an ambush by cattle raiding “bandits” with sophisticated weapons.

It goes without saying that this mass killing of police is a shock in itself.  It is also troubling for its implications for the capacity of the police to address violence in other instances, such as unrest related to the upcoming March election.  The “bandits” are reported to have had weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades that are well beyond the “firepower” associated with the usual run of cattle raids.

 

Kibaki gets ahead of news on Kismayu, as Kenyan forces conduct assault from beach [updated Sat. Sept. 29]

[Update Sept. 29–Reuters reports that al-Shabab announced they had pulled most of their fighters out of Kismayu overnight Friday, continuing the pattern of avoiding heavy direct fighting.]

Friday afternoon, Sept. 28: BBC News–Somali militants hold Kismayo under Kenyan force attack:

Kenyan and Somali forces launched a beach assault on al-Shabab’s last major stronghold, but by late afternoon were still some miles from the city centre.

Clashes were reported just north of the city and residents report Kenyan shelling of al-Shabab positions.

Kenyan troops are part of a force trying to wrest control of the country for the new UN-backed president.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Nairobi says it is probably a matter of when, not if Kismayo falls. . . .

Simultaneously in the Daily Nation, published hours earlier: “Kibaki commends Kenyan forces over Kismayu victory”:

President Kibaki has commended the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for capturing Kismayu terming it a defining moment for Somalia and the region.

The seizure of the port city in southern Somalia is a “game changer”, the President who is also the Commander in-Chief of Kenya Defence Forces said Friday.

“This is a game changer for the people of Somalia, it is a defining moment.

Here is The Standard story: “How KDF took Kismayu”.

It is interesting to note in the context of an amphibious assault that as I understand it, the Kenyan Navy, unlike the ground forces, is not directly integrated into the AMISOM forces.

Update: From Jeffrey Gettleman’s New York Times report, also from Nairobi:

On Friday evening, one Kismayu resident said that the environment inside the town was “very tense” and that “we don’t know where to hide.” The resident, who did not want to be identified, said the Kenyan army was rapidly approaching but that the Shabab were still in control of the city center.

Some analysts predicted that once nightfall came, the Shabab would sneak away under the cover of darkness. Other analysts said that, if cornered, the Shabab fighters who remained in the town might stand and fight.

Kenya’s invasion of Somalia is the most aggressive step it has ever taken against another country. Kenyan officials said they needed to go into Somalia to protect their borders after a wave of kidnappings, and the first troops rolled in last year. But they have also acknowledged that Somalia’s relentless chaos was hindering Kenya’s fast-growing economy and that the invasion was a long-planned objective to secure the coastline and allow Kenya to move ahead with an ambitious, new, multibillion dollar port on the Indian Ocean, not far from the Somali border.

It is not clear what may happen next. Setting up an inclusive, widely accepted local administration for Kismayu will be crucial for any pacification efforts. But Kismayu has always been a tricky place to rule .  .  .  .